Does your Garden need a Diaper?

?Does Your Garden Need a Diaper?

By Billy Goodnick

If you're crankcase leaked, you'd probably do something about it. Same probably goes for your toilet. But have you paid attention to what's been leaking off your property? In the dark ages of subdivision design, the rain that fell on roofs, patios, and oil-stained driveways was treated as the enemy. "Get it the hell out off the property," was what I learned when I was studying landscape architecture.

"What's the fuss?" you might be thinking. "Water issupposedto find its way to the ocean; that's what nature does." True, but nature didn't intend for it to carry all the crap we've allowed to pollute it, like motor oil, dust from brake linings and tires, lawn chemicals and the like. And nature didn't know we'd be paving nearly every square inch of the civilized world and building over the wetlands and lagoons that used to slow, filter, and detain a large amount of that runoff.

Fortunately, for the sake of our streams and shoreline, the Age of Enlightenment has shone upon the discipline of stormwater management. Words likebioswale, detention basinandpermeable pavingare commonplace in the design world. Organizations like theSurfrider Foundationare spreading the word through hands-on educational projects.The City of Santa Barbara'sCreeks Divisionhas been developing educational programs and undertaking a variety of projects aimed at improving water quality. Some improvements are at a grander scale than homeowners can execute, but there are take-aways you can apply to your own yard.


The benefits? More water stays on your property irrigation bill. Additionally, allowing rainwater to seep into your garden helps leach out salts that accumulate in the soil from the municipal water supply. There's also the good you'll be doing for the environment by lessening the impact on storm drains, reducing algae build-up and releasing cleaner water to the natural waterways.

Do Your Part:There are lessons in these projects you can apply to your own yard.

Bust the crust:Lay down your leaf rake and pick up a cultivator. Hard-packed soil repels the rainfall you should welcome into your soil. Top off your beds with a generous layer of bark mulch every few years and allow it to gradually decompose into your soil to keep the root zone loose.

Control your flow:If your rain gutters deposit all your roof water into underground pipes, look for opportunities to divert some or all of that flow into a part of the garden where it's welcome, like a lawn or flowerbed. Hardware stores sell gizmos you can slip over the end of your downspout (I didn't mean it like that) that unravel like a party noisemaker, directing the water away from the house.

Strain your drain:If there's nowhere to retain the water from your roof and hard surfaces, could you slow its journey to the street by creating a swale lined with plants or a dry streambed that will filter out some of the nasty bits? Every little bit helps.

Dig it:Next time you embark on a bed renovation or garden make-over, work in a few out- of-the way low spots where diverted water can gradually soak into the soil without becoming a nuisance. You can find information about plants that don't mind having their feet wet during the winter by visiting < a href= "">Sustainable Horticulture (Caution: Be sure to maintain a buffer of soil that slopes away from the house to avoid excess moisture around the slab or foundation.)

Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff. Learn more about his design work, his book YARDS, and his public appearances atwww.billygoodnick.comLooking for design ideas and cool plants? Subscribe to Billy's Buzz newsletter by dropping him a line